How Operation Desert Storm Changed Air Warfare Forever

January 13, 2022 Topic: Desert Storm Region: Persian Gulf Blog Brand: The Reboot Tags: U.S. Air ForceGPSLaser-Guided BombsInfraredAir Power

How Operation Desert Storm Changed Air Warfare Forever

Many analysts and Pentagon strategists are quick to point out that the US margin of military technological military superiority is much less than it was at the time of the Gulf War.

Although this gave U.S. forces and an advantage – and the U.S. Army was overwhelmingly victorious in Desert Storm tank battles – there were some tough engagement such as the Battle of Medina Ridge between the Army’s 1st Armored Division and Iraqi Republican Guard forces.

Effects Based Warfare – Changing Air Attacks

The use of such precision from the air marked the debut of what is commonly referred to as “effects based warfare,” a strategic air attack technique aimed at attacking specific targets from the air without needing to destroy the infrastructure of the attack area.

As a result, targets included command and control centers, moving ground troops or armored forces, supply lines and other strategic and tactical targets. Effects-Based warfare experts describe this as a “strategic rings” approach with command and control at the center of the inner circle and other enemy assets in the so-called outer rings.

One idea, among others, was to use precision weaponry from the air to cut off communication and supply lines between the command and control centers and outer forces on the move -- in order to paralyze and destroy mobile enemy forces.

This approach was successfully used in Desert Storm, marking a historic shift in the strategic use of air power. In fact, a similar conceptual framework was used more than 10 years later in the opening attacks of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“There once was a time when we thought we had to go into the layers sequentially where we had to start at the out layers and peel it back to get into the inner layers. Desert Storm indicated that this is not the case. The first ordnance to hit the ground was at the inner layer,” Johnson explained.

This article by Kris Osborn originally appeared in WarriorMaven in 2019.

Kris Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: U.S. Air Force Flickr.